How to introduce your children to spicy foods

Anyone who spends time with young children can attest to the fact that picky palates are common. Bold flavors – especially those involving heat – often take small children by surprise, and many react to misunderstanding with a loud, outright refusal. My almost 2-year-old niece, for example, is a mini foodie who loves just about every dish she tries…unless hot peppers are involved. One bite of salsa or guacamole, and she’s in full swing.

I, on the other hand, have loved spicy foods since I was little (at least, according to my mother), and my adoration for bell peppers, chili powder, cayenne pepper, hot sauces and all other capsaicin-laden foods persisted into adulthood. . This makes me wonder: can you learn spice tolerance? Can kids develop a taste for spicy foods, even if they’re not immediate fans? And if so, how can a parent facilitate this while respecting their child’s preferences?

To answer these questions, we asked registered nutritionists and dietitians who work with children to provide advice on the best ways to introduce young children to spicy foods – and how to give them the space and support they need. to decide if they like these dishes.

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Did you know that if you over-salt this taco meat, it can enhance the spiciness of other hot ingredients?

Children may begin to encounter seasoned foods between 7 and 12 months.

Most babies start their foray into solid foods with soft, easy-to-eat foods like hot cereals and pureed fruits and vegetables. Generally speaking, these introductory foods have mild flavors and are not seasoned with salt or spices. At around 7 months, however, a Los Angeles-based registered dietitian Blanca Garcia say that “most families with spicy foods in their cultures start giving infants foods with flavors. [Examples include] beans cooked with onions, garlic or black pepper, ginger, ginger tea and turmeric. For other cultures, spices may also include [mild] curries and garam masala. These foods aren’t spicy, but they do have flavors that can give the palate a basis for what’s to come.

Begin by exposing children to aromatic spices without heat.

As Garcia said, spices that deliver great flavors but don’t include capsaicin (the active component that causes the burning sensation that hot peppers cause) can whet a child’s palate for more spice. intense all the way.

Dawn Kane, Certified Food Scientist and Regulatory Affairs Manager for Little spoonadvises first introducing aromatic spices without heat – think cinnamon, basil, mint or cumin – to children.

“Start with a small amount to familiarize your toddler with the ingredient and gradually incorporate it into more and more mealtime occasions,” she said. “Adding these spices can help expose your little one to a range of flavors and ingredients, helping to alleviate a picky eater-to-be.”

When it comes to “hot” foods, expect your child to be able to say yes or no clearly.

Adding foods containing capsaicin to your child’s diet should wait until the child in question can clearly express his reaction to these dishes.

Registered Dietician and Certified Nutritionist Reda Elmardi recommends waiting until after age 2 to try giving your children spicy foods, both because of their physical development — she said children’s taste buds develop fully around this age — and because that children deserve the agency to determine their own comfort level with hot spices, which may be painful for some people to eat.

Gradually add spice to dishes your child already enjoys.

Carefully guiding your child through the experience of eating spicy foods is a smart move.

“Start with a small amount of spice and serve with foods your child already enjoys,” the registered dietitian advised. Johna Burdeos. “For example, it can take the form of a spicy dip to accompany favorite finger foods, or a hot sauce or sauce served with noodles, pasta, rice or potatoes. Gradually increase the spiciness as your child’s tolerance develops.

Pay attention to how much salt you use.

To tone down the intensity of the spices and/or chilies you use in your recipe — always a good idea, but especially when cooking for kids who haven’t yet gotten used to spicy foods — keep a close eye on the amount of salt that you add to the dish. Salt can increase the perception of heat and make a spicy dish particularly spicy.

Pediatric dietician Cathy Monaghan of in Ireland urges you tomake sure there is no salt in the spice blends you use and avoid adding salt.

Don’t force your child to eat spicy foods, but make these foods available to them if they want to try again.

If you introduce your child to a spicy dish and learn that he doesn’t like it, you can assume you’ve missed your chance to instill a love of heat in your child’s taste buds. Fortunately, dietitian and nutritionist Allison Tallman of assures us that all is not lost – as long as you let your child set the pace for future encounters with spicy food.

If your child continues to disapprove of spicy foods, you can continue to offer them in small amounts, and again, one at a time,” Tallman said. “However, don’t push your child to eat it, as it may lead to resentment. Give your child the choice to eat the food when and if they want.

If your children help you prepare spicy dishes, take the necessary precautions.

Inviting your kids to participate in the cooking process can help develop their overall interest in food, and letting them help you prepare a spicy meal might encourage them to try the finished dish. That said, special precautions should be observed when you and your children handle hot peppers or seasonings. Children tend to rub their eyes and face a lot, which can be very painful if their fingers have touched the capsaicin.

Safety measures for cooking with spicy peppers include being careful with knives and hot pans/pans so that they are not cut or burned. It would also be really helpful to use gloves so they don’t get capsaicin on their skin or in their eyes and feel those burns,” says dietitian Courtney Bliss of feed happiness at Phoenix.

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